38th COTED Press Release
CARICOM officials met last week to discuss some issues of regional importance. One of the priorities for Barbados’ delegation was to converse with the region on St. Lucia’s decision to implement duties on beer and other products coming from Barbados and More Developed Countries (MDCS) of CARICOM. Trade consultant with the BPSTT, Shardae Boyce, stated that the discussions surrounding the decision granted to Less Developed Countries (LDCS) under Article 164 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas were very candid but respectful.
Generally, member states were sympathetic to the challenges Barbados is currently facing. Although there was not the signing off of a legal decision to exempt Barbados’ products from the application of duties there was a positive signal that LDCS, like St. Lucia, will cooperate with Barbados to ease the harshness of the decision.
Boyce stated: “We have to appreciate that there is a lot of work to do going forward to ensure that Barbados is legally entitled to exemption from the decision legally permitted under Article 164. The LDCs in CARICOM operate in the context of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and any decision by one member state to take a different approach to the application of duties or products benefitting from the decision must be passed down by the OECS as a group. Moreover, the Treaty may have to undergo some amendment to grant Barbados an exemption and this is a decision that will have to be made at the level of the Prime Ministers of CARICOM”.
Going forward it would be unreasonable, albeit legally permitted, for LDCs to enforce legislation to apply duties on products coming from Barbados, in light of the economic restructuring Barbados is carrying out. According to Ms. Boyce, “Government is calling on the private sector to cushion the impact of public sector job cuts by absorbing some of the displaced workers. Generally, the private sector is requested to play a leading role in bringing the country back to normalcy. The reality is public funds are down significantly. As a region we must work in the ethos of development for all to ensure that the decisions made at the regional level do not hinder Barbados’ private sector’s capacity to contribute to the national recovery project, by limiting the private sector’s regional market share due to the denial of duty free access.”
The BPSTT noted that it is cognizant of the purpose of special and differential treatment carve outs in the Treaty for LDCS and therefore suggested that Barbados and the OECS must work speedily to get the issue resolved to ensure that the OECS is not adversely impacted. The intention of the private sector is not to dismantle the architecture of the region but to obtain a special carve out for Barbados because of the level of balance of payment problems. It is pellucid that Barbados may never be categorised as a LDC because of its level of human development etc. However, the level of economic restructuring the country is experiencing is far beyond what our regional counterparts are pursuing because of the economic crisis. Consequently, a special carve out for Barbados is more palatable.
|Date Posted||May 13 2014|